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Tahra Bey went through his usual procedure of entering the condition of auto-catalepsy. He pressed hi$> fingers upon the arteries at the nape of his neck and upon nerve-centres in the temples. He curled his tongue towards the back of his throat and brusquely sucked in the air. Within a couple of minutes he became definitely cataleptic. His breathing stopped, the blood-stream ceased to flow and his entire body became numb. He fell back into the arms of his assistants, and while they supported him these facts were ascertained by the doctors who examined him: no heart beats, no breathing I
His ears, nostrils and mouth were then stuffed with cottonwool by his assistants, his rigid, statue-like body being laid flat in the coffin. It would have been hard to say what was the difference between Tahra Bey in his coffin and any dead man in his coffin. Certainly, there was no sign of life in this ashen-faced "living corpse/*
His assistants set to work with the spades, rapidly filling his coffin with the soft red sand. He was covered completely with it. The wooden lid was then brought and firmly nailed down.
Next, the long wooden trough was moved to the carpet and brought alongside the coffin. The latter was lifted up and transferred to the trough and placed inside. The assistants set to work again and piled up the sand over the coffin until the trough was filled right to the top.
We settled down for an hour and a half of waiting, while Tahra Bey lay immobile within his makeshift sandy tomb. We had examined everything used in the feat; we had carefully controlled every step of its performance. If he survived such a test we would be forced to pay tribute to his extraordinary powers.
At last the allotted period elapsed, and true to our promise, the sand was shovelled up and thrown aside; the coffin was disinterred, raised, and the lid opened. There lay the fakir, stretched out as stiff as a corpse, his skin the dull grey colour of one defunct. To all intents and purposes he was, certainly, a dead man.
He was taken out; the rigidity relapsed, and he was placed in a chair. After a few minutes the first signs of returning life appeared. His eyelids flickered; then the rhythm of quiet breathing manifested itself and, gradually, the whole body became reanimated.